We came down the mountain and just like that…there they were- the airborne arthropods with gossamer wings, the butterflies- the gossamers as they were called in these parts. They fluttered and whizzed about like tiny leaves blown about by unseen currents of force, flapping their multi-colored wings against the winds.
As soon as we had crossed the boundary of the Mountain, there they were. Though, there was no physical barrier, no tangible reason for them to not traverse the nations, minus the rule of thumb… magic- there they stayed in the country known to the world as The Gossamer Commonwealth. In reality, no magic held them inside the nation they were named after. They stayed because Gossamer was the one place with absolutely perfect conditions for them to thrive in.
Not many places were left for them to grow in after The Destruction. The wars that almost annihilated the human race took with them many species of beauty. So much was lost after that dark day. The day fire flew from the sky and even the rains became toxic, washing the skin and meat off your bones as if it were a muddied layer of dirt.
Those days are long past now. Though, in some nations the acid rains still come, even now. Yet, when all that was said and done, mankind had never quite fully recovered even after rebuilding a civilization- but how does one recover from that level of destruction? How do you become uncontaminated when everything else around and inside of you is tainted?
That was the toxic rain that started it all, the one inside mankind, beating in their chests like war drums. Still, despite the devastation the delicate gossamers lived. Even when everything else was turning to ash, they heard life calling and followed its bellows.
The-Powers-That-Be knew the gossamers would need a place and called to them- the Papilionidae, to each family, genus, and species they called. So amid the poisoned atmospheres, the Butterflies heard and were drawn in search of a land where they could flourish. By clusters of millions and billions they flew and died. They braved the acid rains, the fire torrents of hell, and flew for life.
Though the carnage was great, the remaining species finally found the promised land and came to rest here: where the grasses run tall, the food plenty; where the sun is bright, and a fixture of cool mornings abide. Not many of their predators made it this far into wild country. Some, but just enough that the butterflies could multiply and their presence never could diminish.
This place, this magical looking land was once called Nadir, like the lowest point of an arc, and the opposite of Zennith in Astronomy- The Nadir Commonwealth. This land was Nadir because it was the exact opposite of what mankind held as beautiful, as the pinnacle of advancement and civilization. It was backward.
As the remaining humans left the poisoned places of earth in search of their own Eden, they found Nadir and settled amid the gossamers. The beauty of it and the vast volume of butterflies that inhabited the place led to many stories among the Nations, legends even. In the stories it was always called Gossamer Commonwealth. Well, in time the name stuck…and the rest is history, as it is said.
Though it’s a beauty, a place of wonder and lushness, do not mistake it for a soft place. It’s a wild place, where only the most fierce can survive, gossamer and human alike. And that is why we’ve come. Gossamer Commonwealth is the vastest nation on the continent but also one of the most uninhabited. So we’ve come to test ourselves. We’ve come to see how the inhabitants of Zennith Nation can get on in the abandoned places of earth where no wires, no lights, no communication happens except the kind that is achieved by hand and foot and mind.
Zennith Nation, the peak of human achievement complete with flying clunks of metal, machines on wheels zooming by at light speeds, phones in hand that do everything for us human beings so we don’t have to lift a finger. Everywhere you turn there are wires galore, wires to make communication, power, and everything in between possible. The Zennith where wires are a way of life and life is, itself, as synthetic as they are.
But in Gossamer there are no wires. There are no lights, save the distant evening fires of the neighbors miles off. Here, in the quiet recesses of the wild no man-made noise protruds.
We came, a product of our nation, high tech, in our Rover- the four-wheeled metal Beast that could outrun any beasts of the field. We stopped at the bottom of Lion Mountain and took in the sights. We took in the grandeur of Gossamer and watched mesmerized as the butterflies traversed the open spaces in front of us. One or two, perhaps in clusters of three, they passed every few seconds, and then large sheets of them in multi-colored swaths every few minutes. Every color and kind were there. They lived and flew together.
And so we went. Into the unknown wilds, we went, to find adventure and our courage. As it is said in the old stories, courage is only found in the unknown where the unfamiliar grows. So hand in hand we traveled through dangers and beauties alike until we returned to Zennith and were never the same for we, too, had heard The-Powers-That-Be whisper in the wind and try as we might, we always yearned to hear them again, always drawn to return to that place once more, like the gossamers to open flames.
“She would now and forevermore be known as Vandara, the Valor of Valerian, the Chosen.”
It was still dark when Vandara awoke, though dawn was near bloom. She tossed aside her covers and dressed. A deep longing was beginning in her chest, a draw to go into the wood and breath in its natural scents. It was as if she was being called into the wide wood, drawn by a force greater than herself.
Vandara dressed in layers, as the spring mornings were indeed still quite cool. She threw open the cabin door where she was staying and headed into the forest not a hundred feet from the little village.
The world was becoming lighter, less gray, and filled with writhing colors in every shade. She pressed on into the woods, not fearing. There was no danger for her here for she was the Chosen. She just did not yet know it.
The tall Cedarpencil trees made the day murky and mysterious but she continued on, careful not to trip over the monstrous tree roots braided into the earth.
After some time she reached a valley clearing and froze at the tree line. There he was. Vast and magnificent- the king of the wood, the Great White Lion. He sat perched on a large boulder watching the sun arise. His rich mane hung down in vast clumps about his thick muscular neck, white and colorless. He sat relaxed, as if without a care in the world, watching bees and gossamers flutter to and fro about him.
Everything was coming alive in the meadow. Butterflies nested in clumps of 5 and 6, pretending as to be flowers soaking in the first rays. Some sweetly fluttered magically about, their wings buzzing mid-air. Bees were humming, their work song commencing with the dawn.
Sleepy-eyed squirrels were just arousing, their snouts salivating over a nutty morsel. They greedily rubbed their faces with tiny hands, greeting the day with squeals of delight.
Birds sang their morning song, in chorus, as they flew in twos around the treetops. They tweeted and whistled. They sang to and fro like chimes of different tones.
By now the sun had kissed the tops of the hills sounding the valley and light was abundantly streaming in, seeping through the forest and bathing life in it light.
With its arrival the mushrooms, some hanging mi-air off of tree branches began to uncoil and regain their shape. It was as if the world hid and changed in the night only to reaffirm its reality with the coming of the light as if light was some magical envoy.
Vandara was still at the tree line, gazing down upon all the life in bloom before her. She sighed in pleasure breathed in the magical beauty. And then it happened.
The Lion turned his gaze, as if knowing she was there and looked directly at her. He stared into her eyes as the breath left her lips. She froze, fear creeping in for the first time, but it was not so much a dread as it was a great awe, an expectation of what was about to unfold.
The Great Lion stood, but did not leave his place. He awaited her approach. She took courage and fell forward into step. It was as if a force outside herself was pulling her toward him. He awaited, tame and calm, still gazing at her as she came to him.
She was close enough, now that she cold see his eyes were a clear liquid blue. She came to a halt feet in front of him and awed at his beauty, the muscle in his limbs- the inhuman strength in his body.
He was strength, he was courage. He was the epitome of beauty, yet wild and untamed. She gazed still into his eyes and reached a gentle hand toward him. He bent his head slowly and she brushed her fingers through his fur. She took in a deep breath, realizing there may have never before been one her touch the Great White Cat.
His eyes were deep, silent gems aglow in the day’s light. He gazed at her intently, bearing a hole into her soul. He saw her, she knew. He saw every part of her, every cranny of her soul and relished it. He relished in who she was. Loved her purely for herself.
He took a step back and she drew back her hand. He bowed his head, until his nose almost touched the ground. She froze. Panic began to set in. She did not understand what he was doing, but she knew it was a blessing of sorts. He was choosing her.
Though, she had been Chosen since the day of her birth without knowing it, it was another matter entirely for the Great Lion, the purest, most powerful creature in all the known lands, to bless her and make her Choosing public before all the creatures.
And nothing would ever again be the same. She would now and forevermore be known as Vandara, the Valor of Valerian, the Chosen.
She was born in the longest summer known in history. The time of her birth and youth was of the greatest peace, the most plenty and she embodied all that a season of summer meant. Warmth, brightness, cheer. She was carefree and hopeful; hopeful of all the things to come. Strong and brave, she found adventure within every corner. Small worlds came to her under every rock, every cranny, calling her to themselves. Under mid-night moons she ran, she danced. Warm running-waters beneath her cold feet, cool moist earth in her hands. She was the dark princess, loved by all; dark skinned, dark eyed, dark from the hair on her head to the tips of her toes. She was hope, she was life. Thus they called her Sommer.
He was Wynter, son of the cold. Pale skinned, white haired, red faced from frigid winds. He was a warrior, a young man, but old as one could be. He lived as a roamer, casting his lot to the north wind and following it’s whims. He took to the icy Tundra wilds, finding shelter as he could. He killed, he ransacked, he stole away the livelihoods of men. His mighty, meaty hand yielded sharp iron and commanded men. With it, he beat his white mare into submission. That same hand that caressed his dying mother’s cheek, held the orphan baby’s fingers in his own, also bathed in blood and relished it. He was death, the epitome of destruction.
Then one day summer moved into winter and their once parallel paths crossed. He spied her in the cool night prancing, the silver moonbeam glowing off her skin. He watched as she danced, found himself smiling as she laughed with the innocent air of a child, as if no terrible thing could touch her or come near. He gazed on as she twirled in the cool mists of autumn and he knew he could not live another day of this death, this empty life that was his own. Drawn by the power of her alien joy, he dismounted, and for the first time in his life, came out of the tree line.
She stopped. She did not cry out. She did not fall back, but froze eyes transfixed on the strange dark figure before her. He said nothing approaching slowly, but no words were necessary. She could feel his pain, his rage, all those things he carried inside him. She smiled, the moon glittering gently in her eyes filling with tears. She approached and took his hand. When their skin met, it was electric. She laughed a sweet full-hearted laugh, interweaving her fingers through his and led him into her world. A world of good, of radiant joy, where dark clouds meant a promise of fleeting terrors.
They said it was a tragedy, that theirs was a terrible love, two opposite lives merged, two kingdoms destroyed, but who’s to say what love is a good or the right kind? For them, Sommer and Wynter, they learned to live in opposite worlds and transformed. They became milder forces to contend with and meshed into Autumn and Spring. Ultimately, they lived in awe of the world, in strongholds of beauty and ferocity until they passed into legends that live eternally in every season.